Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

  • Publisher: Unbound Digital (6 Sept. 2018)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 1912618486

  • ISBN-13: 978-1912618484

Amazon UK

BLURB: A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters: One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery.

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love.

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.


Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)


Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

Inspiration in the bones

What inspires you more – nature or culture? I was prompted to contemplate this while working on my novel, Bone Lines, as one character embodies certain ‘elemental’ qualities and is at one with her prehistoric landscape, while the other is a product of her contemporary, urban culture, although increasingly drawn back toward nature.

For me, it is a fairly evenly split between the two. A city dweller by necessity, I am restored by nature and feel most ‘at home’ in a wild or pastoral landscape. Even before school science lessons (and a rekindled interest in those subjects later in life) I was astonished by what the earth could make of itself, fascinated by how certain places came to be, and how different environments could stir a range of moods or emotions. I was fortunate to travel widely in my youth and so this appreciation was regularly nourished.

For example, the heat and humidity of a tropical jungle can be both nurturing and oppressive, it demands that you pay careful attention, while there is something so primal about such places it’s almost as if your own roots reach as deep as the trees around you, and draw sustenance from the same fertile soils. There is such a profusion of life in a rain forest, not all of it indifferent to human presence (some of it distinctly hazardous) and yet one cannot help feeling enriched by its proximity.

The loneliness of a mountain, on the other hand, can make you confront your own ‘singularity’ without mercy, while the thinness of the air makes you more conscious of your own breath – and, perhaps, how lucky you are to be taking each one. The way that a mountain peak (or vast desert) exposes its visitors to the uncompromising sky, almost as an offering, can make a body feel both vulnerable and yet powerfully alive.

But the landscapes that affect me most profoundly are coastlines – the ragged yet rapturous edge between two worlds… the borderline between the vast depths where life developed on our planet and the territories we have since claimed as our own. There is something untapped, unspoken and intangible in such liminal spaces, the in-between states of our fragile, formidable home.

In terms of culture, I have always loved a great story well told. But the way a true craftsperson can ‘shape’ words also greatly inspires, the rhythms of poetry and the way it captures the essence of a feeling or an observation, the way it reconnects us to ourselves in shorthand. As for novels, as a child I loved historical fiction or anything with animals, adventure, or indigenous peoples in it, but I think the first time I felt the power of what a novel could do was when I read Wuthering Heights as a brooding teenager (now, there’s a book that blurs the boundaries between nature and culture).

The next novel to make its mark was How to Kill a Mockingbird. This brave and extraordinary work opened up an awareness to the injustices in the world, to what might make a ‘good’ person and the values to aspire to. I think there was something about the unruly wildness of the little tomboy Scout that also appealed to the ‘free spirit’ in me.

Apart from the classics such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Woolf et al, significant contemporary authors that have rocked my world include Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Patrick Suskind, Margaret Atwood, Lindsay Clarke, Barbara Kingsolver, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kate Atkinson, John Irving, Keri Hulme, Frank Herbert, Maya Angelou, Arundhati Roy and so many more.

I was never much use at art, but that didn’t prevent me from appreciating it. Art can stir the senses in the same way as a poem, rapidly, powerfully, stimulating an instant response until the layers are gradually peeled away to reveal what lies beneath the first impression. Paintings have both uplifted and terrified me. The soaring yet familiar landscapes of Constable and Turner, the starry nights of Van Gogh, the meaningful ‘doodles’ of Miro, the gleeful colours of Hockney, the dark recognition within The Scream, or the visceral horror of the Raft of the Medusa and Judith beheading Holofernes.

I am hopeless at making music, nevertheless I respond to it as deeply as any other human, as inextricably hardwired to its effects as our species is. I am unsophisticated in its nuances, however, so struggle with complex jazz or certain classical or experimental works, but there is nothing like an elegant melody to draw me in. Mostly, I love to move to music (freestyle rather than anything choreographed as I have a stubborn resistance to learning steps – but anything with an irresistible rhythm and I find it impossible to sit still.) My taste is eclectic, however, and can range from getting emotional over an ecstatic aria to being energised by some guitar-driven rock, or swaying happily to the warm spirit of Motown or some smooth, funky soul. But the metamorphic genius of David Bowie and the enduring magic of Bob Marley have long been constants on my playlists.

I also love a great piece of movie-making. Where to begin? Where to end? Anything from Billy Wilder to Ang Lee, Peter Weir to JJ Abrams, Jane Campion to David Lean or Wim Wenders to Nicolas Roeg have been formative influences on my viewing. Photography is another favoured art form, from the dramatic landscapes of Ansel Adams to the penetrating portraits of Eve Arnold and the glamour of Herb Ritts, but I have a particular passion for wildlife photography at its magnificent best. Perhaps, I realise, that’s because here can be found the ideal marriage between those two occasionally opposing but equally essential forces in my life: culture and nature.

(I hope to be able to offer other retailer links soon.)

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